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Roadworthiness could help lower insurance premiums

By Staff Writer

While the recently proposed speed limit reductions and increased legal drinking age can potentially  reduce the cost of insurance premiums for consumers, Wilhelm von La Chevallerie, Director at CIB Insurance Administrators, says that additional factors, such as vehicle roadworthiness and the quality of drivers’ skills also need to be considered in order to make South Africa’s roads safer.

According to recent reports, vehicle accidents cost the South African economy more than R56 billion a year. Von La Chevallerie says it appears that these financial statistics are forcing government to reconsider speed limits and the legal drinking age. “The slogan, ‘Speed Kills’, is definitely true, when considering the reduced reaction time a driver travelling at high speed has in the event of an accident. The increased severity of the accident due to higher speeds also often results in innocent road users being affected.”

In order to effectively reduce the cost of insurance premiums and increase road safety, he says that additional road regulations need to be put in place. “While we acknowledge that recent proposed initiatives, such as the lowering of speed limits and raising the minimum drinking age, are recognising the importance of road safety, we believe that the quality of vehicles on the road and the capability of drivers are equally important issues that need to be addressed.”

The Retail Motor Industry Association recently revealed that 45% of vehicles on South African roads are older than 10 years, and that many of these vehicles are not properly maintained, making them a hazard on the road.

Von La Chevallerie says that assessing vehicle roadworthiness is fundamental to reducing the number of accidents on the roads. More than 20 000 un-roadworthy vehicles, including several buses and mini-bus taxis, were discontinued from use between October and December 2010.

He says that mandatory periodic testing should be introduced for vehicles that are older than five years. “This would not only decrease the amount of accidents on the roads, but also potentially lower insurance premiums for those who have their vehicles inspected.”

He says that in order to reduce accidents on the roads, road users’ driving abilities also need to improve. “South African driving license tests are still very slack when compared to European countries. For example, in order to qualify for a driver’s license in Germany, the driver needs to accumulate a minimum of 25-45 hours of professional driving instruction, including night-driving, driving on high-ways and in-town, as well as 12 hours of theory.”

Von La Chevallerie says that in order to make an impact on the roads, we need to look collectively at the current issues. “Merely reducing the speed limit will not make enough of a difference, but considering all of the issues will definitely have an effect. Motorists should remember that the more safety precautions that are taken, the lower their chances of having an accident, which eventually should translate into safer roads and lower insurance premiums.”

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